GAVIN Williamson will outline plans for children to return to school on March 8 at a Downing St press conference tonight.
The Education Secretary will appear in No 10 at 5pm to give parents details of how the reopening of classrooms in England is set to go ahead.
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And he will also unveil plans to pump £700 million into providing extra tuition for the kids who have lost out most during lockdown.
His press conference comes after the PM confirmed in his roadmap out of restrictions that schools will be the first thing to reopen.
Mr Williamson is expected to give extra details of how that will happen, including plans for mass testing and a staggered return for some secondaries.
He will also outline how teacher assessments will replace exams for GCSE and A-level students this year.
The Education Secretary said earlier: "Our focus is very much in terms of welcoming children back on the 8th of March.
"It's an incredibly important part of our unlocking the country but it also goes to confirm the national priority is our children and their education.
"We've always said schools would be the last to close and first to open and we've been absolutely true to our word."
It comes as…
- It emerged secondary kids will be tested twice a week when they return to school
- Millions of self-employed Brits are set to be offered grants of up to £7,500 in next week's budget
- MPs called on Boris to make the end of lockdown on June 21 a Bank Holiday
Today Mr Williamson refused to rule out extending the school day or cutting short the summer break to help disadvantaged kids catch up.
He said: "He'll be looking at how we can boost and support children in a whole range of different manners.
"But it's not just about time in school it's about supporting teachers in terms of the quality of teaching and how we can help them."
And he said secondary schools will be allowed to stagger students’ return to the classroom to help them cope with the challenge.
Under the Government's plans older students will need to be tested three times over their first fortnight back, subject to parents' permission.
Mr Williamson said: "Schools are able to bring year groups in from 8 March depending on their capacity as to how they’re best able to do that.
"They’ve got a week to bring all those pupils back, so they can be tested during that week.
“If schools think they have the capacity to get pupils through by 8 March of course they can have them all there.
"All primary schools will be coming back on 8 March as well."
The Education Secretary also revealed the requirement for secondary school kids to wear masks in the classroom will be reviewed at Easter.
But he didn't rule out that the policy could be in place until June 21, the final date in the plan to ease the lockdown.
It comes after Mr Williamson said he is looking at "the whole expanse of what we can do in terms of helping children have extra teaching time".
There are fears millions will be left behind after missing out on almost a year of time in the classroom.
Under new plans teachers will be asked to cut short holidays to help secondary kids with face-to-face lessons before the new school year starts in September.
Ministers want Year 7 pupils to get first dibs on classes, but say they will leave it up to head teachers to pick who should get priority.
England’s schools will get an extra £200million to pay teachers to staff the classes — which can also include sport and other activities.
But despite the extra cash, one source said Downing Street was braced for another “almighty row” with hardline unions over the plan.
Mr Williamson was repeatedly pressed this morning on whether the extra cash could be used to extend the school day or shorten the summer break.
He said: "We're looking at a whole range of different actions. What we wanted to do is give schools the extra resources to take action immediately.
"The best support we can do is seeing children back in the classroom on March 8 – something all parents want to see, all children want to see, and teachers want to see."
Asked if he expects schools to be open in the summer, he replied: "We are giving schools the option of being able to draw down on this funding, we always see schools up and down the country doing so much of this.
"I would hope that all schools are able to do that. Take advantage of a funding that's available, target that resource at those children who are most needed."
He added: "What it does do is it gives schools the extra resource to be able to give extra pay for teachers to do overtime, support staff to do overtime, to help them assist with children to do that extra learning, that extra bit of education, that extra support that goes the extra mile and helps children to be able to bounce back from this pandemic."
Mr Williamson said an extra two hours of tutoring over a 12-week period can help a child catch up on up to five months of lost learning.
The Sun understands that ministers have considered extending the school day, but believe it would be too complicated for now.
That's because unions are demanding new contracts for teachers if they're asked to prolong their working day.
Under the plans £500million will also go on expanding tutoring schemes.
About £302million of this is for a new Covid “Recovery Premium” to support kids in primaries and secondaries, based on the pupil premium which already funnels extra cash to the most disadvantaged.
Primary schools will get around £6,000 each, while secondaries will receive on average £22,000.
The cash comes on top of a £1 billion pot announced six months ago, and will be used to roll out summer lessons and camps, and for am expansion of the national tutoring programme.
Mr Williamson also revealed that the Government will set out details of how teacher assessments will be used to replace exams this year in the next few days.
He insisted: "As we've said many times before we're not going to be running exams this year, it's going to be based on teacher judgement."
His remarks come with schools gearing up to welcome pupils back on March 8 as the first stage of the PM's roadmap out of lockdown.
They will be expected to carry out three tests on each secondary student over the first two weeks, so long as parents provide permission.
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